Forensic Science Mistakes and Wrongful Convictions
June 25, 2017 | Civil Rights
Over the years, and with more advances in technology, forensic science has become a part of the criminal process, and a part of obtaining a conviction in a criminal case. Unfortunately, evidence shows that the misapplication of forensic science is the second most contributing factor to wrongful conviction, as highlighted by a recent article published by the Innocence Project. In fact, misapplication of forensic science is so common, that is cited in 46 percent of all cases in which DNA evidence later exonerates a victim. Our Civil Rights lawyers will review evidence, witness testimony and transcripts in an effort to prove your evidence.
Understanding Forensic Errors
The headlines are full of forensic errors. Misapplied science, which basically means overzealous prosecutors and their equally-overzealous paid doctors, account for alot of cases. Beginning in 2009, the scientific community took note of the “imprecise or exaggerated expert testimony has sometimes contributed to the admission of erroneous or misleading evidence.” In other words, prosecutors quickly learned that shaky science and a convincing expert could generate a conviction.
Other forensic errors are purely technical. Consider the case of Adolf Hitler’s skull. For a number of years after the war ended, leading scientists from around the world were convinced that skull fragments located near the Reich Chancery Bunker belonged to the dictator. Decades later, however, tests confirmed that the skull fragments were female. The results cast doubt on the entire postwar narrative that, for many years, was accepted as gospel truth.
Types of Problems with Forensic Science
“Misapplication of forensic science” is the broad umbrella term that most lawyers and scientists use to describe a number of different scenarios. The Innocence Project report cited above highlights a number of types of problems with forensic science, including:
- Unreliable forensic practices and methods. Some forensic disciplines have consistently proved to be unreliable and inaccurate. For example, comparing bite marks is often an inefficient way of determining who committed a crime. Comparing shoeprints is another unreliable example.
- Misleading or inaccurate testimony. Forensic experts are often called upon to offer testimony in criminal cases, and to secure a conviction. Unfortunately, testimony may be overstated or understated, with the expert withholding evidence or an opinion that could exclude an individual as a suspect, or hyperbolizing the significance of evidence that suggests that a suspect is the guilty party.
- Mistakes and misconduct. Finally, there are numerous unintentional errors, as well as purposeful instances of misconduct, that surround the forensic analysis process. When errors – intentional or not – are made, a person’s life could be significantly, and unjustly, affected. This can often lead to a false arrest.
When Forensic Evidence Leads to a Wrongful Conviction
There are numerous steps that can be taken to ensure that forensic analysis is appropriately applied in criminal cases. If you are someone who has been wrongfully convicted of a crime and later exonerated, it is important that you understand your legal rights. In some cases, you may be able to file a wrongful conviction/false imprisonment lawsuit for a breach of your civil rights, and collect damages for the losses you have suffered.
At the law offices of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, we are here to help you pursue your case. We encourage you to contact us to review your case for free and then to possibly pursue a claim. It is important that if you or someone you know are a victim of a wrongful conviction to call our law offices today.
How Can We Help?
Do you need assistance with a legal matter? Our attorneys have the experience needed to guide you in the right direction.